Angry supporters of Imran Khan took to the streets across Pakistan after Friday prayers to protest against the assassination bid on the ousted prime minister who, in a dramatic address to the nation from a hospital, vowed to resume his march to Islamabad demanding fresh general elections.
While Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party insisted that Thursday's attack was a "prelude to a well-thought-out conspiracy" to assassinate their leader, the federal government has asked the PTI-led Punjab provincial government to constitute a high-level joint investigation team (JIT) for a thorough probe to bring facts to light.
Imran Khan suffered bullet injuries in the right leg when two gunmen fired at him on Thursday (3 November) in the Wazirabad area of Punjab province, where he was leading a protest march against the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Addressing the nation for the first time after the attack, Khan, whose right leg was plastered, vowed to take to the streets once he has recovered from his injuries.
"As soon as I get well, I have decided to take to the streets and will give the call for Islamabad," he said in his one hour-45 minutes speech, during which he attacked the government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Khan said he was hit by four bullets. "Because I fell down, I think he [the shooter] thought I had died and fled," he said.
Khan noted that one suspect, claiming to be an extremist, had been arrested. "He is not an extremist. There was a plan behind the attempt [and] we will uncover it," he said.
Khan also repeated his claim that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal Naseer were part of the sinister plot to assassinate him in the same way former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed in 2011 by a religious extremist.
Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader from Khan's party, alleged it was "a planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan and he escaped narrowly".
Meanwhile, Pakistan's Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the allegations by Khan were all lies and concocted.
"He still thinks with all this drama and speaking false stories he can fool all the people all the time," she said, addressing a press conference after Khan's address. "It has been his idea to lie so much that it begins to seem like the truth," she said.
Protests Against Pakistan Army
Meanwhile, protests by PTI workers erupted in various cities across the country after the Friday prayers.
Khan's supporters are also protesting against the Pakistan Army, which many believe could be behind the attack.
The former Prime Minister of Pakistan has been at loggerheads with the Army establishment since his ouster from power. Over the last few months, he has attacked the high echelons of the military establishment, including chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Imran Khan launched his march on 28 October from Lahore with the aim to reach Islamabad on 4 November to hold a rally to force the government to announce fresh elections.
Imran Khan, who was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly, has repeatedly talked about a 'threat letter' from the US and claimed that it was part of a foreign conspiracy to remove him as he was not acceptable for following an independent foreign policy. The US has bluntly rejected the allegations.
Pakistan Army Rejects Allegations
The Pakistan Army has rejected as "baseless and irresponsible" the allegations made by former premier Imran Khan that one of its senior officers was among the people involved in the conspiracy to kill him and demanded the government conduct a probe and take legal action against those maligning the state institution.
The baseless allegations hurled at the institution/officials today are highly regrettable and strongly condemned," the statement read.
"No one will be allowed to defame the institution or its soldiers with impunity. Keeping this in view, the government of Pakistan has been requested to investigate the matter and initiate legal action against those responsible for defamation and false accusations against the institution and its officials without any evidence whatsoever," it said.
Meanwhile, police in Pakistan's Punjab province have arrested two more suspects, who they believe had sold the pistol and bullets for Rs 20,000 to Naveed Mohammad Basheer, the assailant who tried to assassinate Khan, Geo News reported.
Basheer has confessed that he attacked Imran Khan because "he was trying to mislead the public." Pakistan's Interior Ministry has asked the Punjab provincial government to constitute a high-level joint investigation team (JIT) to bring the facts to light.
In a communique, it asked the provincial government to include senior police officers and intelligence personnel in the JIT.
Earlier, speaking at a press conference with Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Interior Minister Sanaullah said the JIT should consist of senior officers for "credible and transparent inquiry" into the incident. He also assured the provincial government of the centre's "full assistance" in the probe.
The minister also blamed the Punjab government for the security lapse that may have led to the firing. He placed the responsibility for the leaked video of the assailant's confession on the provincial government's shoulders as well.
With inputs from the Press Trust of India
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